Ex-Hog Bequette follows Cotton’s playbook
Jake Bequette and Senator John Boozman both played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but in announcing his candidacy to take the Boozman seat on Monday, Bequette followed the other Arkansas senator’s playbook. , Tom Cotton.
Boozman is a reliable Conservative Republican vote in the US Senate, but in style and rhetoric, he and Cotton are quite different. Boozman has a soft voice, gentle manners and without controversy. He’s a nice guy. Cotton, on the other hand, likes political combat.
Cotton left a legal career to join the military, where he served with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, then later served in Afghanistan with another unit. He was elected to the Senate at the age of 37 in 2014, defeating another non-controversial senator, Mark Pryor.
Which brings us to Bequette, who announced his candidacy for the US Senate on Fox News and with a two-minute video online. Unlike Boozman, who sometimes evokes his playing days, this is a major theme in Bequette’s video. He opens up about his football career for the Razorbacks and New England Patriots and notes that he fired Tim Tebow from college. In politics as in football, he said: “Either your team wins or the other wins. It sounds a lot like Cotton.
Bequette tells us he left the NFL to volunteer with the 101st Airborne Division and served in Iraq, which again sounds like Cotton. He had played eight games in two seasons before being released by the Patriots.
Bequette, 32, never mentions Boozman in the ad. He says he is “not an overwhelming career politician” and that “Democrats have been taken over by radical socialists, and too many Republicans agree to get along.” He said he was fed up with “politicians who only defend President Trump when they take advantage of it.” Boozman voted to certify President Biden’s election and said Trump “bears some responsibility” in the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill. Trump approved it months ago, however. For those who doubt his candidacy, Bequette said, “Just see if you can block me.”
Bequette joins a field that so far potentially includes three other Republicans and three Democrats. Prior to his entry, the top candidate was Jan Morgan, a gun activist and media personality who challenged Governor Asa Hutchinson in 2018 and won 30%.
Bequette and Morgan will occupy the same path – speak harshly and support Trump – but Bequette will be a more formidable opponent. He’ll be mainstream, he’ll be able to fundraise, and he looks like a Hollywood action hero. Seriously, he could play Superman.
Boozman has a history of winning multi-contestant races. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2001 after winning a Republican primary four-way. In 2010, he won an absolute majority – 53% – in an eight-person Republican primary race for the US Senate. It is an impressive political victory.
But it all happened before he was 70, and before the Republican Party moved away from Boozman’s politics and turned to Bequette’s. If Boozman and Bequette met in the general election, Boozman would be virtually guaranteed to win.
But their race is in the Republican Party primary, where most voters will be Trump supporters, some of whom will not forgive Boozman for voting to certify Biden’s election. If Boozman cannot win an absolute majority, he will be forced into a second round, where the turnout will be lower and more partisan.
There is a possible historical parallel. In 1974, Governor Dale Bumpers challenged Senator J. William Fulbright, a nationally recognized politician and fellow Democrat who had been in the Senate for 30 years and was 69. Bumpers wasn’t Superman material, but he was younger, fresher, and more charismatic than Fulbright, and he won easily.
And of course, there’s Cotton, an Iraq war veteran who believes one side wins and who, in his 30s, beat a nice outgoing senator.
Will Bequette make the same formula work for himself? Boozman is still the favorite. Many have tried, but no one has been able to send it back yet.
Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist published in 16 outlets in Arkansas. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.